The expanded World Cup in North America has gotten even more supersized. The governing body of soccer increased the size of the 2026 tournament for a second time. FIFA has created a bigger opening stage with four-team groups in a 104-game schedule. The tournament will now last nearly six weeks in June-July in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The decision adds 24 more games for the 16 host cities. That should further fuel FIFA’s expected record revenue of at least $11 billion through 2026. The 1998 World Cup in France was the first with 32 teams.
The World Cup group stage format for 2026 was changed to 12 groups of four teams from 16 groups of three teams by FIFA’s Council on Tuesday, increasing the total to 104 matches from 64 in the 2022 tournament in Qatar. That means to win a World Cup, a nation will have to play eight games, up from the seven in place since 1974. The top two teams in each group and the top eight third-place teams will advance to a new round of 32 that starts the knockout phase.